What Your Favorite Punctuation Says About You

List creators of the world unite. Colons are used after a main clause to list off a series of items (For my birthday, I want: two monkeys jousting on the backs of Golden Retrievers, a stripper dressed as a clown, and a carrot cake). Colons can also be used to clarify the main clause (Buddy Guy and The Rolling Stones played a Muddy Waters song: “Champagne and Reefer”.

What it says about you: You’re a woman.

The dash – formally called the Em Dash because it is the width of the letter “M” – is generally not recommended for formal writing. Probably because the dash can be used instead of commas, colons, and semicolons. Dashes are used to give emphasis to the content between them.

What it says about you: You are a rebel who can’t be bothered to learn the different pauses associated with other punctuation.

Ellipses Points . . .
Ellipses points are used in place of omitted text from a quote (I see a red door . . . paint it black). This is the equivalent of saying “Blah, blah, blah” in the middle of a long paragraph. Ellipses can indicate an incomplete thought or dialogue trailing off (My keys were right here . . . ), or can also be used to indicate an alternate meaning to the stated text (I never drove . . . drunk). This implies you probably did a lot of other things drunk.

What it says about you: You lose your train of thought easily.

Exclamation Point!
The most excitable of all the punctuation. Exclamation points are used to indicate excitement (A puppy!), an imperative (Duck!), or strong feelings (You’re pissing me off!). Typesetters referred to the exclamation point as a “Dog’s Cock”, which only proves typesetters have no respect for a dog’s privacy.

What it says about you: You are five years old.

The full stop. The no-nonsense end to a declarative sentence.

What it says about you: You probably also love vanilla ice cream.

The comma that went to college. Semicolons are used to separate two independent clauses without using a conjunction (I’m going to the bar; I need a drink). Semicolons are also used when two main clauses are separated by a conjunctive adverb (I am going to bed; however, I’m not going to sleep).

Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway shunned semicolons. Stephen King doesn’t like them either.

What it says about you:
If you are under 30, you use them to make winking happy faces in your text messages.
If you are over 30, you never quite outgrew writing run-on sentences.


Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity.



Filed under writing

21 responses to “What Your Favorite Punctuation Says About You

  1. I’m an M dash person — always use them. (Except when I use parenthesis.) So, that makes me a punctation rebel? I can deal with that . . .

  2. Sherrie Hansen

    Cute – really…
    The forgetful rebel.

  3. Thank you for providing another . . . riotous blog: Noah. As always—yes I mean it—you’ve kicked my morning off to a great start! Personally, I’m an em dash rebel, my blood boils when I encounter an exclamation point, and I’ll never understand why people implement semicolons when a comma or period is far less jarring to the eye.

  4. Gerry

    I like semi-colons; I think they make me look smarter than I really am.

  5. Noah says it all memorably–again! 😉
    I like this post.

  6. Anyone who has read Plainsong or other Kent Haruf novel, knows how to read dialog without quotes. Odd at first, then sort of liberating, but I can’t say I was ever tempted to leave the quotes out of a novel or short story. Guess I’m old-fashioned.

  7. Honu

    I’m five!!! I’m five!!! I’m a big girl now, I’m five!!!!!!!

  8. Noah, your article has gone viral big-time. I shared it with my friends on Facebook and groups on LinkedIn. Quite a number of people have chimed in with their comments. Talking about MWA and ITW members as well as published and unpublished writers. Very cool.

  9. I know we don’t know each other well, but you can call me Rebel.

  10. I’m a semicolon fan too – they’re commas that took a deep breath.

  11. Oh, this is too, too cute and very insightful. I, myself, am an asterisk, as I always want tot be the star.

    I write for children and when I do school visits, I always ask them what mark they think they are. I get a lot of expected answers, but once a little boy told me he was a colon because he liked to be on time. Kind of amazing!

  12. Pingback: What Your Favorite Punctuation Says About You | Ruby On Tuesday

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